Daisy Wart wants everyone to see her Bottom. She’s set her heart on being an actress you see and can’t wait to appear in her primary school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Acting would certainly seem to be in her blood, given her tendency for dramatic outbursts, but Granny Wart is convinced that Daisy is a witch and on her eleventh birthday delivers her to the prestigious Toadpit Towers, school for witches. Daisy is aghast and determined to get out and back in time for curtain up. The school has other ideas, and it’s not just the teachers you have to watch out for here. There’s a garden full of pupil-eating plants, and even the doors have minds of their own. School rules are enforced by the ghost of the original headmistress, who patrols the corridors to make sure that there is absolutely no running. Daisy’s new friends are ready to help though, as is mean Dominique, teacher’s pet, who has her own reasons for wanting to see the back of Daisy.
Letting the naughtiest girl in the school cause maximum mischief while enjoying midnight feasts with her friends is a tried and trusted formula and there are lots of fictional witch schools too, though none quite like this, and Em Lynas has successfully conjured up her very own mix of school and magic. It’s great fun and Daisy is a hugely appealing central character, with a distinctive and memorable voice. Indeed, young readers may well decide that she is ac-chew-ally (to borrow Daisy’s impersonation of deputy head Ms Thorn), their favourite apprentice witch. Daisy, to Dominique’s horror, turns out to be the Best and Brightest witch in the school, though she’s still a rebel, and there will be further adventures to enjoy.